Set in a small seaside village in Britain, Julietta Henderson’s debut novel, The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, is a tender tale of comedy, hope and courage, told from the perspective of 12-year-old Norman and his loving single mum, Sadie.
Norman’s quiet, lonely life gets a surge of excitement when a new student named Jax joins his class. Jax is loud, funny and a perpetual troublemaker—the yang to Norman’s yin. Their instant friendship is strengthened by their shared love for stand-up comedy. The two dream of performing as a comedic duo at Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe when they turn 15.
But when Jax dies, a heartbroken Norman decides to revise the plan. Despite the fact that Jax was the one with the comedic timing, Norman will enter the comedy festival in four weeks’ time to honor his friend’s memory. He also wants to find out who his father is—something that Sadie cannot answer.
Sadie is caught off-guard by Norman’s announcements, but seeing him get excited about something, anything, makes it impossible for her to refuse to go along with his plan. Filled with fear and trepidation, she agrees to a road trip to Edinburgh, planned by her elderly but sharp friend Leonard. Reminiscent of the movie Little Miss Sunshine, the trio set out on an adventure with plenty of twists and turns along the way.
Henderson’s cheekiness and humor shine as mother and son share their innermost fears and discuss how to carry on amid loss and grief. A lineup of great supporting characters keep things memorable and often laugh-out-loud funny. At its core, the novel is a celebration of friendships, new and old, that shape life in the best possible way. This is a happy tear-jerker for sure.